With her five year old nose pressed against the window, she waited. Occasionally she played with dolls, and sometimes she ate snacks her mom prepared. But mostly, she watched at the window. Mostly she waited.
She had dressed as a princess for Halloween. Her mom had taken pictures and sent them to her dad, a deployed marine, a million miles away. At Thanksgiving, she had spoken with her dad for ten whole minutes, right after everyone had finished the Thanksgiving meal. She spoke and laughed and listened. It was the first time she had spoken with him in six months, and when you’re five years old that’s a tenth of your whole life.
At the children’s sermon this past Sunday, the preacher had talked about the season of Advent, and about preparation, about Jesus’ first coming and second coming. And she had remembered all that he had said about the need to be ready, to be prepared for his coming.
And with each passing December day, she thought more and more about what the preacher said about preparing for Jesus’ return, how he had likened it to getting ready for an honored guest in your home, or waiting for a relative to return from a long trip.
And so she began to think that one way of getting ready for Jesus, would be getting ready for her dad. She put away her toys every day. She put dirty clothes in the hamper and helped mom with supper dishes. She listened intently to her mom’s nighttime Bible stories.
And every day she prayed. She prayed for children in other lands, and other girls and boys who missed their dads and moms. She prayed that her dad would come home soon. She prayed that Jesus would wait until her dad came back before he returned, so they could all meet him together.
She had hoped that her dad would make it home by Christmas, but it was now Christmas Eve, and after much coaxing from her mom she reluctantly left her waiting spot by the window and made her way upstairs.
And though she tried to stay awake, she slowly drifted off to sleep with the gentle sound of rain landing on her bedroom window. It always made her sleepy when the rains fell upon the tin roof.
But somewhere in the night she was awakened, not by the sound of reindeer and a jolly old elf, but by a loving embrace and a warm kiss, and the moisture of a joyful tear. And immediately she knew that she was in the arms of her Father who could not contain his joy at holding her in his arms. And she, likewise, let out a shriek of sheer delight and joy as she threw her arms around his neck and shouted through her tears, “I’ve been waiting for you”. And through her Father’s tears she heard him softly say, “I’ve been waiting for you”.
The evening nurse gently pulled the cover over Miss Bessie’s face, and walked the curtain around the bed before closing the door on room 73 at the Winter Care facility. And as she filled out the necessary release forms in preparation for the arrival of the local funeral director, she paused.
Miss Bessie had been an Alzheimer’s patient at Winter Care for seven years. And in all the time she had seen her at Winter Care, Nurse Thompson had never heard her speak or move, until tonight. Never before had she seen a facial expression, until she came into the room in the moments after she took her last breath. But the smile on her face could not be denied, and her frail arms crossed over her chest appeared frozen in an eternal embrace. And the shriek she heard, the only sound she had ever heard from Bessie, sounded more like that of an excited child on Christmas morning than the dying gasp of a ninety five year old woman.
She completed the release form just as the funeral director arrived to take Bessie’s body. It would be another hour before she finally left work for home. As she walked out into the night, standing on the front porch at Winter Care, she pulled her collar up high on her neck. It was windy and cold. And as she drove away, she knew that this was one Christmas Eve she would not soon forget.
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